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Snake

(2,561 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
Ὁ ὄφις/ ho óphis, as early as Hom. Il. 12,208; Latin anguis or, from its creeping way of moving, serpens; sometimes also generally ὁ δράκων/ ho drákōn (v.i. B. 3.; = óphis in Hom. Il. 12,202; Hes. Theog. 322 and 825), ἡ ἔχιδνα/ échidna (Hdt. 3,108; also as the snake-like monster Echidna and in a metaphorical sense for 'traitor/traitress', e.g. Aesch. Cho.  249), ἡ χέρσυδρος/ hē chérsydros (e.g. Nic. Ther. 359); Latin vipera (first at Cic. Har. resp. 50), coluber, colubra (from Plautus to Petronius only poetic). I. Zoology [German version] A. General The absence of snakes on certain i…

Poseidon

(2,631 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen) | Bäbler, Balbina (Göttingen)
(Ποσειδῶν/ Poseidôn, Doric Ποτειδάν/ Poteidán, along with other forms of the name). I. Myth and cult [German version] A. General remarks P. was the Greek "god of the sea, of earthquakes and of horses" (Paus. 7,21,7). He belongs to the older strata of Greek religion: his name is already well attested in Mycenaean times. He was worshipped both in Knossos and in Pylus [2], where he also had a sanctuary (the Posidaion), a cult association (the Posidaiewes) and probably even a wife, Posidaeja [1. 181-185]; his local importance is still reflected in Pylian Nestor's [1] sacrifice to…

Sacrifice

(10,943 words)

Author(s): Bendlin, Andreas (Erfurt) | Renger, Johannes (Berlin) | Quack, Joachim (Berlin) | Haas, Volkert (Berlin) | Podella, Thomas (Lübeck) | Et al.
I. Religious studies [German version] A. General Sacrifice is one of the central concepts in describing ritual religion in ancient and modern cultures. In European Modernity, the term sacrifice (directly or indirectly influenced by Christian theology of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to redeem mankind) also has an intimation towards individual self-giving ('sacrifice of self'). The range of nuances in the modern meaning stretches to include discourses that have lost their religious motif and hav…

Philyra

(206 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen) | Käppel, Lutz (Kiel)
(Φιλύρα/Philýra, literally 'lime-tree'). [German version] [1] Oceanid Oceanid, already in Hesiod (Theog. 1002) the mother of the centaur Chiron, in whose cave she lived according to Pindar (N. 3,43). The Hesiodic, Aeolic spelling Phillyrídēs for Chiron points to an archaic stratum of the myth (West on Hes. Theog. 1002). She was loved by Kronos who, being surprised by Rhea while making love to her, turned himself and P. into horses. Their child was the centaur Chiron, whose monstrous shape so horrified the mother that she prayed…

Thargelia

(230 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (θαργήλια/ Thargḗlia, also Targelia). The main festival connected with Apollo on the 6th and 7th days (resp. birthday of Artemis and Apollo) of the Attic/Ionian month Thargēliṓn (late April to late May). The etymology is not known; in Antiquity the name was linked with a stew, thárgēlos (e.g. Phot. ψ 22), made from first fruits offered up to the god. The importance of the festival is also shown in its onomastic productivity, cf. e.g. the Milesian courtesan T. (Hippias FGrH 6 F 3); indeed the festival was generally of great si…

Prophets

(2,681 words)

Author(s): Köckert, Matthias (Berlin) | Quack, Joachim (Berlin) | Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen) | Wick, Peter (Basle) | Toral-Niehoff, Isabel (Freiburg)
[German version] I. Introduction The term P. has found its way as a loanword from the Greek translation of the Bible into numerous languages. The Septuagint regularly uses prophḗtēs to translate the Hebrew substantive nābī, which is etymologically connected with Akkadian nabû(m) = 'one who is called'. Since then a very much wider use has emerged. For a more precise demarcation of the concept, it is useful to adopt Cicero's distinction between inductive and intuitive divination ( genus artificiosum, genus naturale: Cic. Div. 1,11,34; 2,26 f.) and to describe as prophets onl…

Mopsus

(269 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (Μόψος/ Mópsos). Famous mythological seer (or seers?), who already participates in the expedition of the Argonauts in archaic Greek epic (POxy. 53,3698) and Pindar (Pyth. 189-192). He is the son of Ampyx and grandson of Ares (Hes. Sc. 181), comes from Titaresus (i.e. Dodona) and dies on the journey, after being bitten by a serpent in Libya (Apoll. Rhod. 4,1502ff.). Originally, he may well have been the heros eponymos of the Thessalian Mopsium (Str. 9,5,22). The exact relationship between this M. and the famous seer from Asia Minor, who is the son …

Narcissus

(1,201 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen) | Bäbler, Balbina (Göttingen) | Eck, Werner (Cologne)
[German version] I. Mythical character (Νάρκισσος/ Nárkissos, Lat. Narcissus). [German version] A. Mythology Narcissus is the personification of a plant by the same name; as with many plants, the etymology may be pre-Greek (Chantraine, vol. 2, s.v.). The aetiological myth of Narcissus is documented only in relatively late sources and is unlikely to be earlier than Hellenistic. Conon [4] (FGrH 26 F 1,26), a mythographer, who knew many local myths, tells of the fate of a handsome youth from Thespiae in Boeotia…

Hades

(923 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (ᾍδης; Háidēs). Greek term for the Underworld and its ruler. Various spellings are attested: Aides, Ais and Aedoneus in Homer, H. (aspirated) only in Attica. The etymology is unclear; the most recent proposal is that H. should be traced back to *a-wid ‘invisible’ [1. 575f.], cf. however [2. 302]. Outside Attica, for instance in Homer (Il. 23,244; Od. 11,623), the word can also designate the  Underworld, whose gates are guarded by the hell-hound  Cerberus (Il. 5,646; 8,368). In Home…

Harpies

(242 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (Ἅρπυιαι; Hárpyiai, Latin Harpyiae). Female monsters of Greek mythology who, as daughters of Thaumas and Electra (Apollod. 1,2,6), belong to an older generation of gods. These ‘snatchers’ (< ἁρπάζω, harpázō = ‘snatch’, ‘rob’), who are never described in detail, are personifications of the demonic forces of storms and are always represented as winged women. Homer uses them in order to explain the disappearance without a trace of Odysseus (Hom. Od. 1,241; 14,371) or the sudden death of  Pandareus' daughters (Od…

Thalysia

(132 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (Θαλύσια/ Thalýsia), a word suggestive of 'abundance' (Gr. thalía, cf. thállō 'to bloom'), is a first-fruit sacrifice (Gr. aparchaí) for Artemis (Hom. Il. 9,534). Its antiquity is suggested by the name Thalysiades (Hom. Il. 4,458). Later it became particularly identified with Demeter; Theocritus situates his seventh Idyl on the day of a T. for Demeter. There also was a ‘thalysian’ bread, made from the first fruits (Athen. 3.114A), comparable to the thargēlos bread (Thargelia). Menander (Rhetor 391 Russell-Wilson) compares aparchaí in speeches with T. for Dem…

Amalthea

(336 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
(Ἀμάλθεια; Amáltheia). [German version] [1] Cretan Nymph Cretan nymph, daughter of Haemonius, by whose goat Zeus was suckled after his birth (Call. h. 1,49). Rationalizing versions make the nymph a goat (Aix). Zeus used the skin of the goat, the aigis, to conquer the titans (Hom. Il. 15,229 schol. D = POxy. 3003). Ovid (Fast. 5,111-28) connected the myth with another, presumably independent, tradition of a (bull-) cornucopia of the nymph A. (Pherecyd. FGrH 3 F 42), which was often mentioned in comedies (Aristoph. fr. 707; Cratinus fr.…

Leucothea

(247 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (Λευκοθέα; Leukothéa). A deity connected with initiation and rites of reversal. She appears as early as in Homer (Od. 5,333f.) where she is combined with Ino. Both, however, also appear independently in myth and in cult (the Leukathea of L.). L. was worshipped ‘in all of Greece’ (Cic. Nat. D. 3,39), but it is difficult to gain a clear impression of her festivals which often seem to have contained traits of social dissolution [1. 179; 2. 405-407]: her sanctuary in Delos was connec…

Divination

(6,021 words)

Author(s): Maul, Stefan (Heidelberg) | Jansen-Winkeln, Karl (Berlin) | Haas, Volkert (Berlin) | Niehr, Herbert (Tübingen) | Wiesehöfer, Josef (Kiel) | Et al.
[German version] I. Mesopotamia While attention in old Egyptian culture was largely centred on existence after death, the concerns of Mesopotamia were almost exclusively with the present. A significant part of the cultural energy of ancient Mesopotamia was devoted to keeping human actions in harmony with the divine, so as to ward off such misfortunes as natural catastrophes, war, sickness and premature death. As such, heavy responsibility rested on the ruler as mediator between the world of gods and that of men. In Mesopotamia everything which is and happens was seen as a man…

Zalmoxis

(338 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (Ζάλμοξις; Zálmoxis). God of the  Getae; the name of the king Zalmodegicus (SEG 18,288) of the Getae shows that the spellings Zalmoxis and Salmoxis (Σάλμοξις) are variants [1]. Z.' epithet was probably Beléïzis (Hdt. 4,94,1: thus recent editions against earlier Gebeléïzis). The main source is Hdt. 4,94-97, which is largely if not exclusively followed by Hellanicus FGrH 4 F 73 [2. 156 note 202], which tells that among the Getae Z. was considered to be a god who taught religious rite…

Hymenaios

(465 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
(Ὑμέναιος; Hyménaios). God of marriage ceremonies or a wedding song (Sappho: ὑμήναος; hymḗnaos, Callimachus: ὑμήναιος; hymḗnaios). [German version] [1] Greek god of weddings Greek god of weddings whose name derives from the Greek word for wedding hymn, hyménaios. The etymology is unclear. H. is a relatively late creation: he first appears as a personification of the wedding hymn in Pindar (fr. 128c) and Euripides (Tro. 310; 314). In the innovative choral lyrics of the 4th cent. BC, he appears to have been a favoured motif [1. 56]. …

Proetids

(372 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (Προιτίδες; Proitídes). The P. ('daughters of Proetus') are the subject of a mythical tradition, that narrates their maddened wandering and the subsequent curing of that madness. Several versions of the tale exist. According to most of them, the P. are driven mad by Hera after they have mocked her or her temple, or have stolen ornaments from her statue. Hes. fr. 131 M.-W. says that Dionysus drives them mad because they rejected his rites. They leave Argos or Argive Tiryns and, beli…

Cassandra

(622 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (Κασσάνδρα, Kassándra, ‘who stands out among men’ [1. 54-57]; Lat. Cassandra). In the Iliad ‘the most beautiful daughter’ of Priamus (Hom. Il. 13,366-67), who ‘compares to the golden Aphrodite’ (ibid. 24,699); Ibycus describes her as ‘she of the narrow ankles’ (fr. S 151 Davies). Beauty, youth and social status as a princess make her the paradigmatic feminine adolescent. The attempted rape on the part of  Ajax [2] fits this scenario; afterwards C. sought asylum at a stature of Athena in her sanctuary, as is reported already in the Iliupersis and in Alcaeus (S 262 Pa…

Linus

(348 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
[German version] (Λίνος; Línos) presumably is the personification of the ritual (Oriental?) cry aílinon (Phoenician ai lanu?), the refrain of the so-called L. song (Hom. Il. 18,569-570; Hes. fr. 305-306 M.-W.; Pind. fr. 128c 6). According to this tradition, L. is the son of Apollo and a Muse (Urania, Calliope, Terpsichore or Euterpe [1. 14; 2. 55]); the link with the Muses is reflected in a cult on the Helicon [1] (Paus. 9,29,5-6) and in Epidaurus (SEG 33, 303; 44, 332A). Argive women and maidens in an annual…

Gorgo

(604 words)

Author(s): Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen) | Welwei, Karl-Wilhelm (Bochum)
[German version] [1] Horrific monster Female monster in Greek mythology. According to the canonical version of the myth (Apollod. 2,4,1-2),  Perseus must get the head of  Medusa, the mortal sister of Sthenno and Euryale (Hes. Theog. 276f.; POxy. 61, 4099), the daughters of Phorcys and Ceto (cf. Aeschylus' drama Phorcides, TrGF 262). The three sisters live on the island of Sarpedon in the ocean (Cypria, fr. 23; Pherecydes FGrH 3 F 11), although Pindar (Pyth. 10,44-48) located them among the Hyperboraeans ( Hyperborei). Their connection to the s…
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